Weather Service issues flood warning for the lower Elk River west of Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs — The Elk River west of Steamboat Springs is under a flood warning, likely continuing through Wednesday when there are preliminary signs the rivers in Northwest Colorado will peak for the season.
The National Weather Service posted the warning at 7:37 p.m. Sunday saying that the Elk’s flows could be expected to rebound from the weekend when cool, cloudy weather kept the river below flood stage. The Elk was expected to go back above flood stage Monday night into Tuesday morning for the second time this season.
The Yampa River in Steamboat Springs is expected to follow a similar trend but will remain well below flood stage.
“Warm temperatures will continue to accelerate snowmelt over the high mountains resulting in continued high flows along the Elk River at Routt County Road 42,” the text of the Weather Service warning reads. “Daily fluctuations will cause the river to decrease below flood stage at times, only to bounce back above flood stage later in the day. Snowpack above the Elk River remains high, and with the warm temperatures expected to continue, flooding concerns will remain elevated.”
Forecast highs this week are expected to reach 76 degrees on Tuesday and 74 degrees on Wednesday.
However, Routt County Emergency Manager Bob Struble said Monday morning that when the Elk River went over flood stage of 7.5 feet Friday night into Saturday morning, it did not cause any road damage or truly threaten any homes.
“At 7.65 feet, it was good on the Elk right at the bridge on (Routt County Road) 42,” Struble said. “Those homes had a little bit of water around them, but nowhere near what I’ve seen” in the past. “The water was really behaving good down there.”
The Weather Service said the river still could go higher in the next few days. It was predicting the Elk could reach nearly 7.8 feet early Wednesday morning with “additional rises possible thereafter. At 7.9 feet elevation, backwater flooding is possible due to any debris blocking culverts under U.S. Highway 40 at the East Fork of the Elk.”
Struble said Monday morning that he had not seen evidence of problems at the culverts but added that sheriff’s deputies and Routt County Road and Bridge are monitoring the flood potential across the county.
Rivers due to peak next week?
A tentative projection by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, suggests both the Yampa and the Elk will reach their final peaks of the season later this week, possibly Wednesday night for the Elk and Thursday night for the Yampa in Steamboat. Beyond Thursday, projections show both rivers gradually falling below bank-full.
The Yampa could fall to 3,200 cubic feet per second at Fifth Street by June 9 or 10. It was flowing at 4,770 cfs at Fifth Street at midnight Sunday and well above 5,000 cfs eight blocks downstream below Soda Creek.
Walton Creek still rolling
Some residents of Indian Meadows Townhomes saw Walton Creek, a major tributary of the Yampa, rise within a few feet of their back porches Sunday night.
“It came right up here,” Lacey Slifer said Monday morning, indicating the lawn where she was playing with a neighbor’s dog. The neighbor recalled that the creek actually lapped against her porch after a particularly heavy snow year in the late 1990s, likely 1996.
Walton Creek was running almost a foot deep Monday morning on a section of concrete public trail that links Chinook Lane to the vicinity of Whistler Park with the help of two pedestrian bridges over the creek. The water rose to within about 20 feet of several single-family homes between Meadowood Court and Meadowood Lane.
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